Thursday, January 23, 2014

No Denim Jumper Required

We've been home schooling for nine years now. I can't even believe that's true! I love it. I am so thankful to be able to do it. I will admit, it is hard. Some days more than others. I didn't always think it was a good idea. But, as with everything in my life God has a way of slowly working on me until  one day I look around and realize that I'm a passionate believer.

I saw a quote somewhere recently that said, "Home schooling isn't for everybody, but it is for anybody". And I think that's true. I certainly don't think any less of all my friends who's children go to public school. Some of my best friends are or have been public school teachers. They are wonderful, dedicated, and truly strive to make a difference in the lives of the children they teach. Sometimes a public school setting is  the best option. But I also see a lot of people who are interested, curious, or who want to take the leap but are scared out of their wits. And it's to those people that I want  to share my thoughts and experiences.

I think what scares most people off  of home schooling is that they picture it being a public school replica at home. Let me say that the wonderful thing about it is that it can be ANYTHING you want it to be. It absolutely does not take six to eight hours a day of rigid structure to accomplish. Although if that's your style  you can certainly give it a try!

Our oldest, Marley went to kindergarten at one of the "best" elementary schools in our city. We were both so excited and I was so happy to have gotten her into that particular school. Marley has always been pretty sweet, obedient, and well-behaved, so she got along just fine. I volunteered in her class room and was increasingly disturbed at her teacher. She possessed the opposite of every characteristic I thought a kindergarten teacher should have. She was not kind or helpful and actually made fun of and mocked a number of the children on several occasions. I will always be thankful for that year though. Marley met a friend and I was able to spend time with her mother. She had home schooled the year before and was just taking a break because she was pregnant and feeling overwhelmed.

 My image of homeschoolers up to that point was of the frumpy denim jumper-wearing lady with ten kids, all of whom were social weirdos! But this lady was cool! She was successful, she was the farthest thing from weird. That's when the idea began to grow. Maybe I could home school?
Denim jumper convention
I started out teaching Marley and Townsend to read with the book Teach Your Child to Read in 100 Easy Lessons. It seemed like a miracle to me. I mean, I was not a trained professional and somehow my kids were learning to read. There was something so rewarding in being the one to teach them that life skill. As I think back on my life as a home schooling mother so far, this is the defining point of it all for me. I am the one teaching my children life skills in what I believe is the perfect learning environment, HOME. Really, spending a large amount of time in the family dynamic is the best teacher. Aside from academic learning, social intelligence or in other words, attributes like hard work, patience, love, forgiveness, respect, compassion, and trust are naturally and ideally learned in a loving home.

But what about socialization? I couldn't even begin to try and count how many times I've heard that one! Obviously it's a genuine question and I'll answer it with another genuine question. Do you know of any adult who spends eight hours a day working in a room with twenty five other people their exact same age? I guess my point is this, socialization is important but I don't think that the public school model of education is the optimal means by which to achieve the goal. I grew up attending public schools. My experiences in that world of unspoken rules was that adults and young people don't mix, aren't "on the same team" so to speak. It produces this weird Lord of the Flies social structure of dog eat dog. You have to be at least a little hardened to make it through, and it's absolutely essential that you find a group to identify yourself with. I want much more for my children. I want them to be confident and independent. I want them to value all people and not feel limited by a specific age group, socio-economic background., or any other difference while choosing their friends. In my experiences so far homeschooling has produced stellar results! My two oldest not only speak with adults with no fear but actually consider many their very close friends and mentors. While growing up they never felt it was beneath them to play with children who were younger than them, and again considered some their very best friends. They're not embarrassed to like what they like and pursue their own interests.If they want to do something, they find a way to make it happen all on their own. And here's the real clincher for me, my two teen-agers aren't even embarrassed by me! Now that's saying something. Thomas and I both went through  pretty acute and prolonged anti-parent phases so I've been bracing myself for the worst for years. But it just hasn't happened yet. Coincidence? I like to think not.

    There's so much more to talk about! It'll take a least a couple more posts for me to feel like I've covered it well. But here's the short list of why I love home schooling my children:
-I love my kids and I like being with them. I like being there when they learn something new and see the wonder in the world. It is vital that you make time just for yourself and your own passions and interests, but that's a whole other topic.
-I love that we are free to go with the flow and learn about whatever interests us at any given moment! Each kid is so very different and we have the freedom to encourage that.
-For the younger kids we only spend a couple hours at the very most on actual "school work". A lot of days we don't end up doing any formal school work. Fun fact- No one ever taught Jairus to read. He just picked it up on his own through everyday life. Human beings are naturally capable and intelligent and will seek out learning. The older kids do spend significantly more time on study though.
-I love not being restricted by a school districts' schedule! We are free to get up and go to bed whenever we want(I really love to sleep in), we are free to take vacations whenever we want and during less busy times and I don't have to worry that they're missing something important.
-My children aren't subject to arbitrary labels and time frames. Children reach learning milestones at very different rates. Townsend learned to read at age 4 and Aislyn didn't really start to take off until she was 9. She was just ready a little later. Aislyn did attend public school for one year and was placed in special ed classes which significantly affected her self esteem but did little to increase her mastery of reading and math. At home you don't learn to estimate your value by whether you are in a gifted class or a special ed class. You are just learning at whatever level you happen to be.

To wrap it up for now, here's a great infographic with stats on homeschooling families.The Skinny on Homeschooling in a GREAT Infographic  Home schooling is not for everyone but it is definitely for anyone(and no denim jumper required)!


Graton said...


I loved reading about your approach to homeschooling and about your experience. You guys are one of the neatest families that I know and I am so glad that you moved here! (since we couldn't come join you in Seattle:)

I love your comments on the beauty of socializing to a community that is diverse on age, interests, and abilities. I think it is so powerful for kids (and adults) to choose how they will define themselves and to relate to others without institutionally enforced labels.

I look forward to future posts!


The Barcelona Family said...

I too love your approach to homeschooling and to what being accountable to our children is really about. I have mentioned to you at least 100 times that you inspire me, literally daily and even rereading your blog for encouragement and insight is a beautiful blessing. Thank you for taking the time to share your thoughts, it really makes a difference! Blessings my friend :)

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